3:30 PM CT Thanksgiving Day 2013 on CBS
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Fresh off of a last second 24-21 win over the New York Giants on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys (6-5) will be right back in action Thursday afternoon when they welcome in the Oakland Raiders (4-7). The Cowboys are hoping to finally gain some momentum in the lowly NFC East and put together some wins rather than fall back into the win one-lose one trend they have been haunted by for most of the season. The Cowboys are 28-16-1 all-time on Thanksgiving Day.
Last week’s performance against the rush for the Cowboys was a lackluster one at best, giving up 202 rushing yards to the New York Giants. “It wasn’t one thing or one player every time, it was always something different. Whether it was a technical issue or whatever it was, we plan on getting it cleaned up by Thursday,”said head coach Jason Garrett on Tuesday. Running the ball has been a strong suit all season for the Raiders. Despite missing their No. 1 back Darren McFadden for most of the season, they are still fourth in the league in rushing.
The Cowboys pass defense hasn’t been much better, ranked 31st in the NFL. Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin has stepped in the last two weeks and played well for the injured Terrelle Pryor. In two games, the 23-year-old backup has thrown for 544 yards and four touchdowns. Dallas plans on attacking him the best way possible with the limited amount of game tape he has. “When you see him on tape I think he has nice command, he’s playing with confidence and seems to understand what they are trying to do. He’s a great compliment,” Garrett said of McGloin.
The Cowboys know they will be able to pass the ball effectively against an Oakland defense that hasn’t been much better against the pass (25th in the NFL). Tony Romo has arguably played the best football of his career this year with 23 touchdowns to seven interceptions, a 64% completion percentage, and just under 3,000 yards through the first 11 games of the season. Romo has played even better on Thanksgiving through his career. Since taking over as the starter, Romo has feasted on opponents, posting a 5-1 record all-time on Thanksgiving Day.
The x-factor for the Raiders will be how well they can run the football. Dallas has struggled mightily all season long on defense, and if the Raiders can consistently move the chains by continuing to run the clock, then this game will be a lot closer than many are expecting.
The x-factor for the Cowboys has to be continuing to get the football to Dez Bryant. Despite the occasional erratic play and off-focus behavior from Bryant, there is no denying his talent. “Dez is a great competitor, he did a great job on the last drive [last Sunday] and did a great job of beating his individual assignments. He had the fumble, but he still got it done in the end. He just needs to keep at it and stay focused,” said Romo. Bryant finished the game with nine grabs for 102 yards. If he can stay focused, those are the type of numbers he can easily put up on a week-to-week basis.
The Cowboy’s offense just seems like they will be too much for a below average Raiders defense playing on the road. Romo has been in a groove all year and seems locked in with his top two targets, Bryant and Witten, which could lead to a surplus of points on Thanksgiving afternoon. The Raiders should be able to run the ball well to keep it close, along with a balanced attack from McGloin, but he won’t be enough to put Oakland on top by the end of the day.